'Serial infector' plea deal reveals lack of communication among hospitals

The plea deal on Wednesday for "serial infector" David Kwiatowski revealed for the first time the extent of the hospital worker's scheme and the lack of communication among hospitals involved which allowed him to continue hurting patients, a new report from The Boston Globe's White Coat Notes reveals.

Kwiatowski, who admitted to "killing a lot of people" by stealing painkiller syringes and replacing them with saline tainted with his blood, plead guilty on Wednesday to 14 federal drug theft and tampering charges.

For years, Kwiatowski managed to hide his drug-stealing tactic: as the article describes: "Often working in cardiac catheterization labs, he took new syringes loaded with narcotics, typically Fentanyl, and replaced them with syringes he had previously used and re-filled with dummy fluid. The replacement syringes were contaminated with traces of the potentially lethal virus that he acquired during his years of drug abuse, and these syringes were ultimately used during patient procedures."

His plea deal, signed by federal prosecutors, reveals his scheme started in 2002, when hospitals in Michigan knew of his drug problems and fired him, but did not warn other hospitals that hired him. He tested positive for controlled substances at one hospital and was fired for "gross misconduct" at another.

"He was hired to work at nearly 20 hospitals, despite leaving graphic evidence while on the job in Pennsylvania and Arizona that he was heavily addicted to narcotics," the article states. "At UPMC Presbyterian, affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, he was caught in possession of empty syringes bearing fentanyl labels."

This didn't stop him from getting jobs elsewhere, and telling colleagues he had Crohn's disease and needed drugs. At Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, he was ultimately caught after a patient inexplicably tested positive for a strain of hepatitis C--and White Coat Notes says this may not be the last prosecutors learn of his transgressions.

In a similar case from this spring, after a jury found UnitedHealth negligent for not properly overseeing a doctor who infected two patients with hepatitis C and ordered it to pay $24 million in damages, it said the insurer must pay an additional $500 million in punitive damages.

To learn more:
- read the White Coat Notes article

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